The Big 18

Submitted by UMFootballCrazy on April 21st, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Since we are willing to now consider Big 10 (11) expansion beyond 12 teams to any and all possibilities, and Brian encouraged this sort of wild speculation, it seems to me that some configuration of 18 teams makes the most sense.  We become the Big 18.  The solution is actually quite simple.  The base schedule is 11 games + conference playoffs.  You create three six team divisions, based on geography.  Within the division, you play each team once per season (5 games).   You allow one non-conference creampuff/tune up game at the beginning of the schedule.   The rest of the games must be arranged exclusively with other conference members (5 games) at the discretion of the schools.  This would allow certain teams to arrange rivalry games every year.  It would also increase the conference strength of schedule.  (If the Big 10 gets out in front of this, if college football evolves into three, or perhaps four, 18 team super-conferences, it means we get first choice of available schools and thus assuring no current or former mid-majors end up in the Big 18).  It will also encourage more home and home non-divisional series.

Big 18 Western Division


Big 18 Central Division

Michigan State
Notre Dame

Big 18 Eastern Division

Ohio State
Penn State

(I picked the schools with an eye to football and basketball, especially the Eastern Division, which would be the weakest football division but likely will be the strongest basketball division).

When all 10 Big 18 conference games are done, the winner of each division moves on to the conference playoffs and there is one wildcard team (some formula would have to be worked out to resolve wildcard ties if two divisional winners have the same record, but that would be a small problem.  The NFL manages it every year).  Then there is a two game playoff:

Best Record vs. Widcard
2nd Best Record vs. 3rd Best Record

The winner of those two games play each other and is crowned Big 18 champion, and will be a strong candidate to play in the national championship game every year.

The carrot that would induce teams to give up one regular season game each year would be a TV revenue sharing agreement so that all teams would benefit equally from the playoffs in terms of revenue.   The downside is that you do not get as much opportunity to play other big conference schools, as that one non-conference game will be used as a pre-season tune up game, like played against a baby seal team.  Bowl games could make up for that a little.

If this were to induce a move to three or perhaps four mega conferences, you could then follow the conference schedule with one of two playoff structures:

Three Conference:

Best Team – Bye Week
Number 2 vs. Number 3

Winner of 2vs.3 plays number 1 for the national championship.

Four Conference:

Best Team vs. Number 4
Number 2 vs. Number 3

Winners of those games play for the national championship.

The national championship is played at the Rose Bowl in the evening of New Year’s Day.

The teams would be seeded according to wins and if the conference winners have an equal number of wins that some formula (to be determined) is used to seed the three or four teams.  The upside of this is that football is decided on the field and leaves voting out of the equation.  The downside is that college football starts to look like the NFL.

You could still allow schools to arrange bowl games as consolations, and to sort out some of the conference strength nonsense (perhaps you could base seeding in next year’s national championship, in the event that two conference winners have the same record, on the respective record of the conferences in the bowl games.  This would give a little more meaning to the bowl games).  If people want to watch bowl games, why not put them on TV.



April 21st, 2010 at 4:22 PM ^

They would likely end up playing them twice every year. You have have five non divisional conference games that you can arrange with any non-divisional conference team. That means we can play OSU every year, or most years, in a regular season confernence game as well as regular games against Iowa and Wisconsin as well. But we can also throw Nebraska and Pitt and others into the mix on a yearly basis. The division breakdown above ensures that every year four power teams will go to the Big 18 conference championships, with the odd suprise from time to time and a team from one of the other divisions getting through as a wild card each year.


April 21st, 2010 at 5:20 PM ^

So you make that happen. There might be limits to how many years in a row you can schedule a school. Rivals might be limited to 8 out of 10 years, but it is a very doable thing in a three division 18 team format to play both a divisional schedule and maintain conference long as you can get teams to give up all but one of their baby seal non-conference games.


April 22nd, 2010 at 11:20 AM ^

All things change. The OSU matchup didn't always happen the last game of the season and no reason to think that it must stay this way upon expansion. We must keep the OSU-Michigan game on for every year, but we do not have to have it as the last game.


April 21st, 2010 at 4:14 PM ^

I have been a proponent of the Big Ten looking at the larger picture and move to the first true power conference.

This just might work.

Fun to think about. My own version of "I have a dream!"


April 21st, 2010 at 5:32 PM ^

bigtime that the Eastern division has the weakest football. It has the top 2 current teams in OSU and PSU and a strong Pitt team there. The central is weakest imo.

the Bray

April 21st, 2010 at 5:52 PM ^

If you are going to do 18... why not just do two divisions of 9? You get one baby seal game, 8 games against your division and 2 or 3 cross-over games. Two division winners plays in a title game. You base the two divisions around some anchor pairings, and fill in the rest based on who joins.

Anchor pair one - Michigan/MSU/Ohio State
Anchor pair two - Penn St/Pitt/Wisconsin

Throw Indiana and Purdue into the same division.
Put Minny/Wiscy/Iowa in the same.
And so on.

Better yet, do the above with 16. Two divisions of 8. You get one baby seal, 7 against your division and 3 or 4 cross-over games. That way you'd play the teams in the other division every other year.

the Bray

April 22nd, 2010 at 8:49 AM ^

14 might even be more KISS. And still allow for a couple baby seal games... or MAC opponents or even a home and home with a big boy.

Two divisions of 7.

You play the 6 division opponents once a year.
You play 3 (11 game schedule) or 4 (12 game schedule) cross over games.
You play 2 non-con games.

You are still playing everyone in the conference at least every other year (except for an 11 game schedule, one team would not make it) and two non-con games, so Michigan could still go MAC at home and home/home with ND (or someone like ND if they join the B10).

I just don't see a soccer-style floating arrangement being sold to the public at large. To message board die-hards? Sure. But when you have the media (TV and newspaper) dumbing itself down to the lowest common denominator... how is the public going to understand/grasp the nuances of a BATS plan?


April 21st, 2010 at 9:13 PM ^

Since we are going all crazy and contemplating the Big 18, the creation of the first super-conference juggernaut, it seems to me that other conferences would have to follow suit and I would gather that the Pac 10 would first to jump into the fray and make a move if only to prevent Texas going into the SEC and thus they would quickly prey on the remnants of the soon to be defunct Big 12 and the best of the Mid-Majors, creating a Texas/California recruiting stranglehold.

Pacific 18

Division 1

Arizona St.

Division 2

Washington St.
Oregon State
Boise State

Division 3

Texas Tech
Texas A&M
SMU [Edit -- Substitute BYU ??? -- I did like the all Texas Division, though. Perhaps add Oklahoma here and BYU goes to Oklahoma's spot in the Leftover 18]

Next the SEC will have to react and will turn itself into a super conference by adding a third division:

SEC East

South Carolina

SEC West

Mississippi State

SEC North

Georgia Tech (or perhaps WVU or VT)
Florida State
North Carolina

The rest of the major programs would have to scramble to form a conference that for now we can call the Leftover 18

Leftover 18 East

Boston College
North Carolina State
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest

Leftover 18 West

Kansas State
Oklahoma [EDIT -- Perhaps substitue BYU here and Oklahoma goes to the PAC 18]
Oklahoma State
Cincinnati -- [EDIT -- insert Colorado move to Leftover 18 Leftovers]
Louisville -- [EDIT -- insert Colorado St. and move to Leftover 18 Leftovers]

Leftover 18 Leftovers

South Florida -- [EDIT -- Substitute Cincinnati]
West Virginia
Marshall -- [EDIT -- Substitute Louisville]
Air Force

[EDIT] Dang...forgot BYU...
[EDIT] Dang...forgot Colorado and Colorado St...probably drop South Florida and Marshall to include these two schools...I just feel the need to include the serivce academies for tradition reasons.


April 21st, 2010 at 7:36 PM ^

has now hired Paul Tagliabu as a special advisor to help prevent the big ten from raiding multiple teams. This comes from Joe Schad on college football live on ESPN2 today. This makes it seem more and more like the Big Ten is thinking big. This feels like the one final move a bad guy makes after everyone thinks he's already dead. But then the bad guy usually gets a bullet to the cranium or his head is chopped off. They suggested that they might force Notre Dame's hand and tell them get all the way in or get out. Which they would hope stops any further pillaging of their conference. Good bye Big East.


April 21st, 2010 at 8:34 PM ^

That doesn't leave room for outside rivalries, unfortunately, unless ND wants USC as their 'creampuff' and, even then, Nebraska has to choose between Oklahoma and Colorado (my guess is Oklahoma would win that, I don't think Nebraska would be too devastated to forget about Colorado, but still . . .).


April 21st, 2010 at 9:01 PM ^

That is the downside of the whole superconference idea, which I noted in the OP. Personally, I think if I have to trade between three cupcakes and one decent non-conference opponent and one cupcake and strong conference play, I would choose the the strong conference schedule.


April 22nd, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

You did note it as an issue, but I think it's a fatal flaw in the idea. If I was told that the only way to play Ohio State was to give up my only cupcake, I wouldn't be happy with the system, and that's basically what you're telling ND and USC to do.

Also, fewer cupcakes is good for college football as a whole, but if only the "Big 18" is doing it, we'd be at a huge disadvantage to other teams who can get through a season undefeated much more easily (yes, we'd get some credit for playing a harder schedule, but you'd rarely see an undefeated BCS conference team get passed over for a 1-loss team no matter how hard the 1-loss team's schedule was; that's part of the whole reason we have these huge numbers of cupcakes). Secondly, if every BCS conference went to a 1-cupcake schedule, it might actually be bad for football--you're basically locking out non-BCS conference teams like Boise State from being able to get enough competition to even come close to proving themselves, worse than the current situation.

That said, I like the ingenuity you showed and I'm glad you posted your idea so we can have these debates, I just don't think this system would work.


April 22nd, 2010 at 6:01 PM ^

I think that the major school programs may actually see it as a benefit to fix once and for all which are the "in" schools vying for a national championship and which are the lower tier schools. You might even end up with a new layer of college athletics between D1 and D2 which would be more appropriate than this constant chatter about the rise of the mid majors. Put Boise State in the SEC, Big 12 or Big 10(11) and see how frequently they go undefeated. It is easy to get hyped up for the occasional big time non-conference game or bowl game, but do you really think Boise could consistantly beat OSU-PSU-Iowa-Wisconsin-UM(when we are good again) or Texas-Nebraska-Oklahoma(oops! insert tittering giggles here) or Florida-Alabama(oops! insert tittering giggles here)-LSU-Auburn-Georgia year in and year out? A four mega-conference landscape would fix the college football hierarchy once and for all and would end any chance for teams to play up through non-conference games. It would raise the level of play across the board. It just seems to me that if the Big 10(11) goes after a team in another conference (anyone other than ND) such as Nebraska or Pitt, it throws open the whole mess and at that point the super conference of 18 makes as much, if not more sense than 14 or 16 teams. If not 18 then 15 seems like the next logical number in my mind as the three division system allows both a fixed round robin divisional schedule and enough other non-conference games to add variety.